Monday, June 18, 2012

No Happy Endings?

"There are no happy endings..."

We live in a pessimistic culture. We see much pain and trauma in the world. People die of hunger, disease, violence and war. Death does not discriminate between young and old, rich or poor, innocent or guilty. Injustice and oppression reign in many places unchecked. In this world it is very easy to conclude that there are no "happy endings".

Is it really true? As Christians, let's take a brief look at this question using the Biblical framework of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation.

1. In the original creation was there a happy ending?

"And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good."

2. What happened to "happy endings" in the fall as recorded in Genesis?

To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

In a fallen world there are no real "happy endings". In time we all experience physical death. Life is hard. People die of hunger, disease, violence and war. Death does not discriminate between young and old, rich or poor, innocent or guilty. The conclusion is that "happy endings" were lost in the fall.

But is that all there is to the story?

3. What does Redemption have to do with "happy endings"?

"...and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen 12:3b)

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

" But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matt: 1:20-21)

"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." (Romans 5:1-5)

The whole point of the story of redemption is that in Jesus Christ, we who put our faith in Him will in the end, have a happy ending.

This brings us face to face with being redeemed, yet not fully redeemed creatures in a fallen and not yet fully redeemed world. The happy ending we look for is promised, but yet to come.

" And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated of whom the world was not worthy— wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect." (Hebrews 11:32-40)

4. It is in the final consummation that believers in Christ will fully realize and enter into their happy ending. We will truly live happily ever after.

"But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly[a] of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel." (Hebrews 12:22-24)

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place[a] of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

Christian hope is focused on the future as seen through the promises of God in His word, the Bible. A vital part of that hope is that in the end there will be a happy ending; that in Jesus Christ we will live happily ever after.

We will see glimpses of that happy ending in the good things we see and experiences in this mortal life. In those glimpses and experiences, that future hope throws faint rays of light through the cracks of time back into this present fallen age. We see those brief flashes of light through the eyes of faith in Christ based on His word of promise.

Yes... There will be a happy ending. We may not see much in this world that points to that happy ending, and we may even despair that such a happy ending will ever come at all.

But come it will. That is our Christian hope.

"For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep." (1 Corinthians 15:16-20)

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